Cannabis and Pets

Cannabis Healing Not Only for Humans
Ken Wachsberger

What do you do for your pets when they are sick or unhappy? A room full of pet lovers attended the second monthly Cannabis Classroom at Bloom City Club in Ann Arbor on September 18, to find answers from Bloom chief pet lover and budtender, Shayna Palinkas.
The culture at Bloom City Club includes the strong commitment to educating the public about cannabis and its role in healing. Cannabis Classroom adds an education component to the third Sunday of every month. The Southeast Michigan chapter of Women Grow also holds its meetings at Bloom, on the second Thursday of every month.

Shayna isn’t a veterinarian. She proclaims that disclaimer from the start. But, she notes, “I’ve owned many kinds of pets, and shadowed many different veterinarians”. What I’ll talk about today is what I have seen to work and what I’ve learned from continued research.”

Munchies, Yes

She begins by answering what she calls the number one question she is asked by pet owners: “Will my pet get high?”

“From the CBD, no,” she explains. “CBD is an anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety. It reduces or eliminates seizures. But it isn’t psychoactive. The psychoactive component is THC. It can be found is medicated dog biscuits or Rick Simpson Oil, but there’s nothing to be afraid of. Your pet may feel lethargic, but it won’t get sick and it will feel less discomfort.”

She quickly concedes: “Common side effects include diarrhea at first because your pet isn’t used to the ingredients, and you may notice increased thirst, drooling, or fatigue but the symptoms are temporary.”

To cleanse the system of cannabis-related toxicity, you can use activated charcoal, which traps the toxins. Activated charcoal can be purchased at drugstores or feed stores. It should be taken every 8 hours for the first 24 hours.

Can you feed your pet too much?

I have witnessed CBD and THC help. I have not seen them harm. You find the right level for your pet by using trial and error and that can be frustrating. If you think you’ve fed your pet too much THC, CBD can be used to bring down the psychoactive effects.

Death, No

But death likely won’t happen from your pet ingesting cannabis products. She cites a veterinarian from Colorado who notes the increase in pets ingesting cannabis since the state legalized it. Two smaller dogs did die, one who ate a pound of pot brownies and one who ate a pound of pot butter. “Was it the marijuana that harmed the dogs or the ingredients in the edibles?” she asks.

Another study, from 2013, concluded that “the minimum lethal dose for dogs is more than 3 grams of THC per kilogram of their body weight given orally.

Not much research is being done, but most studies have been on dogs. Very few have been done on cats but the dosage would be similar for them and smaller dogs. With horses it would take a lot more, with bunnies a lot less. Stick with CBDs for bunnies.

Getting to the Endocannabinoid System

All mammals have the same endocannabinoid system (ECS) as is found in humans. The function of the system is to receive and process natural cannabinoids, which affect appetite, pain sensation, nausea, mood, memory, and inflammation. Activity within the system helps to maintain the body’s stable internal environment, or homeostasis.

“At the site of an injury, the system already begins to heal its wounds even before CBD and THC are introduced. Cannabis just magnifies what the body’s natural messenger compounds already do.”

Shayna explained that you don’t need a medical marijuana card to buy CBD products. Hemp only has CBD. Hemp products, such as milk, flour, grains and more, are ubiquitous in many grocery stores and health markets.

She explained the “first-pass effect” that happens when a drug is taken orally: The “first-pass effect” refers to the fraction of the drug that is lost through the liver and gut wall before it gets into the endocannabinoid system. Within 72 hours after ingesting cannabis, 35% is excreted in the feces and 10 to 15% is excreted in urine.

But, she adds, whether your pet is taking THCs or CBDs, consistency is important. “Unlike Ibuprofen or THC, which acts immediately, it takes a week or two for CBD to beneficently get into the system. It’s more effective when it is taken more frequently.”

Alternatives to Cannabis

In addition to cannabis, CBD can be found in flax oil. Caryophyllene, a terpene found in black pepper, cloves, hops, and rosemary, is a great analgesic.

Using topicals is one effective way to administer the CBDs, though they pose another first-pass problem since they have to pass through two layers of skin to get into the system. “Topicals are good for the joints. Terpenes in topicals help absorption.”

She encourages pet owners to “stack CBDs with other cannabinoids and terpenes.” The resulting “entourage effect” magnifies the benefits of all.

She concluded her talk with three alternative sources of healing, in particular for cats:

  • Licorice root: heals itches, digestive and respiratory problems, is anti-inflammatory
  • Catnip: makes cats happy, relieves stress and nervousness
  • Valerian: works as a stimulant, makes them peppy

“Everyone’s experiences will differ. What matters most is not the number of milligrams you give your pet so much as the consistency with which you dose them.”

Final Tip

Many growers toss the fan leaves because they do not contain THC, but those leaves can be used for juicing as an excellent source of cannabinoids, such as CBD.

Ken Wachsberger, editor of Bloom Blog, is an author and founder of Azenphony Press Writing and Editing.